The Senate has approved on third and final reading the bill that would facilitate the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines by the government.
Senator Sonny Angara, who sponsored Senate Bill 2057 as chairman of the Committee on Finance, welcomed the speedy approval of the measure, which he said will remove the obstacles to the delivery of some of the first doses of COVID-19 vaccines to the country and hasten the inoculation of Filipinos across the country.
A total of 22 senators voted to approve the measure, with no negative votes and no abstentions.
“The entire nation is eagerly awaiting for the start of the vaccination program that carries with it the promise of immunization from the COVID-19 virus that has caused so much hardship and pain to all Filipinos over the past year. With this measure, we hope to see the start of the inoculation of our population, starting with the priority sectors, at the shortest possible time,” Angara said.
“We as a people have lost so much because of the pandemic—in terms of jobs, opportunities and human life. However, we believe that with this measure, we have not lost out on the belief that there will in fact be an end to this ordeal,” Angara added.
Once enacted, the national government, local government units (LGUs) and the private sector will be authorized to procure COVID-19 vaccines through the National Task Force Against COVID-19 (NTF) and the Department of Health (DOH).
LGUs will also be authorized to directly procure the ancillary supplies and services necessary for the storage, transport, and deployment of the vaccines.
A significant number of LGUs have started preparing for the rollout of their respective vaccination programs and are waiting for the enactment of the bill in order to exempt them from the legal requirements regarding the procurement of goods.
Among the laws covered by the exemption are Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act, Presidential Decree 1445 or the Government Auditing Code of the Philippines, and the Local Government Code.
“The bill will provide legal cover to the LGUs, many of which have intimated to us their concern about possible adverse findings by the Commission on Audit and even graft cases that may be filed against their officials,” Angara said.
For the private sector, Angara said their procurement of COVID-19 vaccines will also be done in cooperation with the DOH and NTF, through a multiparty agreement.
A National Vaccine Indemnity Fund will also be established to compensate any individual inoculated through the COVID-19 vaccination program, in case of death or for the treatment of possible severe adverse effects.
A total of P500 million sourced from the Contingent Fund of the 2021 General Appropriations Act is authorized to augment the existing funds of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation as the administrator of the indemnity fund.
A special task group composed of medical and vaccine experts with proven track record will be established to monitor the probable adverse effects that may arise after the administration of the vaccines.
“The indemnity fund will cover the indemnification agreements with the vaccine manufacturers, which the NTF has started fulfilling. This removes one major stumbling block to the delivery of the vaccines to the country,” Angara said.
Another provision of the bill that will help bring in more COVID-19 vaccines and other critical supplies to the country is the exemption of the purchases and importations of these from taxes and duties.
This is the product of the bills filed by Angara and Sen. Imee Marcos, which will seeks to exempt the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines and the necessary supplies for its storage, transport and distribution from customs duties, value added tax, excise tax, donor’s tax and other fees and charges.
Vaccination cards will be issued by the DOH, LGUs and private entities to individuals who have been vaccinated.
The vaccination cards will contain basic information about the individual; the manufacturer and brand of the vaccine administered; date of vaccination; date of last RT-PCR testing; and the names of the facility where the vaccine was received and the health professionals who administered the vaccine.